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Pilane clashes with Court of Appeal Judges

Advocate Sidney Pilane this week lashed out at a bench of Court of Appeal (CoA) well regarded judges, accusing them of interjecting him “too much” during his oral submissions.

Pilane who is held with high esteem in the law fraternity cautioned the Judges to guard against interpolating as they interfered with his arguments as well as how he wanted to put them across. The panel consisted of three lordships in the mould of CoA President Justice Ian Kirby, Justice(s) Lord Arthur Hamilton and Jacobus Brand.

Pilane launched the scathing attack when deliberating in a case in which Kgatleng District Council (KDC) was appealing a High Court judgement by Justice Terrence Rannowane. Justice Rannowane had reviewed and set aside the decision by the KDC to refuse to grant Mochudi Wholesalers a building permit and subsequently an occupation permit. The permits, including other requirements satisfaction would have seen Mochudi Wholesalers start trading at the three storey building which is in the shape of a shopping complex now turned white elephant.

Following his one hour deliberations and going into the lunch break, the nonconformist Advocate Pilane raised the concern to Kirby and the two other juries that “you interject too much and I get derailed on my submissions”. Pilane, who can be easily regarded among the first Batswana to earn the title of an Advocate, justified to the panel of judges that they were making him not to argue his case as he wants to “in a coherent manner”.

“One judge asks a question, and while am attempting to answer the other one asks a different one. And I end up not being able to put my main case or argument coherently,” Pilane told the judges to their faces. In hearing the concern, Judge President Kirby who looked not amused by the accusations said they could as well keep quite throughout his submissions if Pilane so wished.  “We can all keep quiet, listen until you finish, if it is what you want,” Kirby highlighted to the eccentric Advocate.

In response to Kirby’s comment, Pilane said he was only asking that the judges be considerate. He stated: “I was just asking for you to be considerate and in no way am I implying that the questions/inquiries you pose to me are not helpful. Neither am I saying the answers I give are not of assistance to your lordships.” Kirby also highlighted that senior counsel, Advocate Nigel Redman, who also made submissions before Pilane, was also subjected to similar interjection from the same panel.

It is not the first time that the Judges could not escape the wrath of the one-of-a-kind Pilane whom in February last year expressed the “chilling” similar views. He accused the CoA of having “a lack of respect for lawyers”. According to reports, Pilane told a bench of five CoA judges then that his junior lawyer, Mboki Chilisa (in a case in which they were both pursuing) was “attacked, interrupted and terrorised by the judges who were presiding over a case in which a teacher was fired for criticising President Ian Khama and his administration.”

According to the reports, Advocate Pilane complained that Chilisa was harassed and abused by the judges when he appeared before court. He had said then that “we are happy to be asked questions so that we provide clarity to the court but we want to be respected as we respect the court. He (Chilisa) was constantly interrupted and he hardly finished his sentences.” At some point, Pilane who is also the leader of opposition Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), an affiliate of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), quit the party to try his luck for the Judgeship of the court.

Justice Kirby reserves judgement on main case

Meanwhile, Justice Kirby reserved the judgement on the Council and Mochudi matter to 2 February (in two weeks time). In the main appeal the Council said Justice Rannowane, in his High Court judgement, lost sight of the fact that the application before him was a review of the administrative decision made by the appellant (KDC) on 28 May 2013.

Court papers by KDC indicate that although the appellant (KDC) had negotiated with Mochudi; it had untimely determined that “it could not grant Mochudi a building permit and therefore an occupation permits in respect of the building.  The reason for this was manifest. The appellant had not been satisfied by Mochudi that the building is structurally sound.”

The Council continued to point out that, in light of Mochudi having commenced and completed the construction of the building without having obtained the necessary approvals, it was aware that the appellants had been precluded from participating in the building process and from having inspected the construction work at various intervals. “Having regard thereto, it would have been incumbent upon Mochudi to satisfy the appellant of the structurally integrity of the building.”  

Justice Rannowane had ruled that the parties were to engage an expert and assess the current structural soundness of the appellant’s building and if satisfied recommend remedial measures and thereafter issue a building and an occupation permit to the appellant. Mochudi Wholesalers Pty (Ltd) had erected the shopping complex and completed in 2003. They were asked in 2009 to demolish and remove the portion of the development from the road reserve as it was said to be encroaching on Pilane/Mochudi road reserve.

On the matter, Pilane said it is clear from the facts that KDC is acting dishonestly and with contumely. “Furthermore the building in question was completed as far back as 2003. More than 12 years have since lapsed with the building vacant, and being subjected to sporadic acts of vandalism, all at their expense.” The appellant, KDC was represented by Senior Counsel, Advocate Nigel Redman, Attorney Laone Serole and Steve Rankwana from Serole and Partners attorneys. Advocate Sidney Pilane together with attorney Monyaka Makunyana were fighting on the side of the Mochudi Wholesalers who own the disputed building.

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UDC founder warns against merger

19th October 2020
Ex UDC Convener: Mpotokwane

Lebang Mpotokwane, one of the conveners who presided over the opposition cooperation talks that resulted in the formation of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), has advised against changing the current umbrella model in favour of a merger as proposed by others.

The Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leader, Dumelang Saleshando recently went public to propose that UDC should consider merging of all opposition parties, including Alliance for Progressives (AP) and Botswana Patriotic Front (BNF).

Saleshando has been vehemently opposed by Botswana National Front (BNF), which is in favour of maintaining the current model.  BNF’s position has been favoured by the founding father of UDC, who warned that it will be too early to ditch the current model.

“UDC should be well developed to promote the spirit of togetherness on members and the members should be taught so that the merger is developed gradually. They should approach it cautiously. If they feel they are ready, they can, but it would not be a good idea,” Mpotokwane told WeekendPost this week.

Mpotokwane and Emang Maphanyane are the two men who have since 2003 began a long journey of uniting opposition parties in a bid to dethrone the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BCP) as they felt it needed a strong opposition to avoid complacency.

Tonota born Mpotokwane is however disappointed on how they have been ejected from participating in the last edition of talks ahead of the 2019 general elections in which BCP was brought on board.  However, despite the ejection, Mpotokwane is not resentful to the opposition collective.

He said the vision of opposition unity was to ultimately merge the opposition parties but he believes time has not arrived yet to pursue that path. “The bigger picture was a total merger and we agreed that with three independent parties, members might be against merger eventuality so the current model should be used until a point where they are now together for as long as possible,” he said.

“UDC should gradually perform better in elections and gain confidence. They should not rush the merger. We have been meeting since 2003, but if they rush it might cause endless problems. If they are ready they can anyway,” he advised. For now the constituent parties of the umbrella have been exchanging salvos with others (BCP and BNF).

“There are good reasons for and against merging the parties. Personally, I am in favour of merging the parties (including AP and BPF) into a single formation but I know it’s a complex mission that will have its own challenges,” Saleshando said when he made his position known a week ago.

“Good luck to those advocating for a merger, it will be interesting to observe the tactics they will use to lure the BPF into a merger,” former BNF councillor for Borakalalo Ward and former BNF Youth League Secretary General, Arafat Khan, opined in relation to BCP’s proposed position.

Mpotokwane, who is currently out in the cold from the UDC since he was ejected from the party’s NEC in 2017, said the current bickering and the expected negotiations with other parties need the presence of conveners.

“We did not belong to any party as conveners so we were objective in our submissions. If party propose any progressive idea we will support, if it is not we will not, so I would agree that even now conveners might be key for neutrality to avoid biasness,” he observed. Despite being abandoned, Mpotokwane said he will always be around to assist if at all he is needed.

“If they want help I will be there, I have always been clear about it, but surely I will ask few questions before accepting that role,” he said. UDC is expected to begin cooperation talks with both AP and BPF either this week or next weekend for both upcoming bye-elections (halted by Covid-19) and 2024 general elections and it is revealed that there will be no conveners this time around.

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BDP attaches Boko’s property

19th October 2020
DUMA BOKO

The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) moved through its lawyers to attach the property of Umbrella for Democratic (UDC) President Duma Boko and other former parliamentary contestants who failed in their court bid to overturn the 2019 general elections in 14 constituencies.

WeekendPost has established that this week, Deputy Sheriffs were commissioned by Bogopa Manewe Tobedza and Company who represented the BDP, to attach the properties of UDC elections contents in a bid to recover costs.  High Court has issued a writ of execution against all petitioners, a process that has set in motion the cost recovery measures.

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COVID-19 exposes decay in the education system

19th October 2020
Education Systm

Botswana Sectors of Teachers Union (BOSETU) says COVID-19 as a pandemic has negatively affected the education sector by deeply disrupting the education system. The intermittent lockdowns have resulted in the halting of teaching and learning in schools.

The union indicated that the education system was caught napping and badly exposed when it came to the use of Information System (IT), technological platforms and issues of digitalisation.

“COVID-19 exposed glaring inefficiencies and deficiencies when it came to the use of ITC in schools. In view of the foregoing, we challenge government as BOSETU to invest in school ITC, technology and digitalization,” says BOSETU President Kinston Radikolo during a press conference on Tuesday.

As a consequence, the union is calling on government to prioritise education in her budgeting to provide technological infrastructure and equipment including provision of tablets to students and teachers.

“Government should invest vigorously in internet connectivity in schools and teacher’s residences if the concept of flexi-hours and virtual learning were to be achieved and have desired results,” Radikolo said.

Radikolo told journalists that COVID-19 is likely to negatively affect final year results saying that the students would sit for the final examinations having not covered enough ground in terms of curriculum coverage.

“This is so because there wasn’t any catch up plan that was put in place to recover the lost time by students. We warn that this year’s final examination results would dwindle,” he said.

The Union, which is an affiliate of Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Union (BOFEPUSU), also indicated that COVID-19’s presence as a pandemic has complicated the role of a teacher in a school environment, saying a teacher’s role has not only transcended beyond just facilitating teaching and learning, but rather, a teacher in this COVID-19 era, is also called upon to enforce the COVID-19 preventative protocols in the school environment.

“This is an additional role in the duty of a teacher that needs to be recognized by the employers. Teachers by virtue of working in a congested school environment have become highly exposed and vulnerable to COVID-19, hence the reason why BOSETU would like teachers to be regarded as the frontline workers with respect to COVID-19,” says Radikolo.

BOSETU noted that the pandemic has in large scales found its way into most of the school environments, as in thus far more than 50 schools have been affected by COVID-19. The Union says this is quite a worrying phenomenon.

“As we indicated before when we queried that schools were not ready for re-opening, it has now come to pass that our fears were not far-fetched. This goes out to tell that there is deficiency in our schools when it comes to putting in place preventative protocols. In our schools, hygiene is compromised by mere absence of sanitizers, few hand-washing stations, absence of social distancing in classes,” the Union leader said.

Furthermore, Radikolo stressed that the shifting system drastically increased the workload for teachers especially in secondary schools. He says teachers in these schools experience very high loads to an extent that some of them end up teaching up to sixty four periods per week, adding that this has not only fatigued teachers, but has also negatively affected their performance and the quality of teaching.

In what the Union sees as failure to uphold and honour collective agreements by government, owing to the shift system introduced at primary schools, government is still in some instances refusing to honour an agreement with the Unions to hire more teachers to take up the extra classes.

“BOSETU notes with disgruntlement the use of pre-school teachers to teach in the mainstream schools with due regard for their specific areas of training and their job descriptions. This in our view is a variation of the terms of employment of the said teachers,” says Radikolo.

The Union has called on government to forthwith remedy this situation and hire more teachers to alleviate this otherwise unhealthy situation. BOSETU also expressed concerns of some school administrators who continuously run institutions with iron fists and in a totalitarian way.

“We have a few such hot spot schools which the Union has brought to attention the Ministry officials such as Maoka JSS, Artesia JSS, and Dukwi JSS. We are worried that the Ministry becomes sluggish in taking action against such errant school administration. In instances where action is taken, such school administrators are transferred and rotated around schools.”

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